Some have stated that they would rather not know their HIV status citing the emasculating stigma associated with being HIV-positive
The recently published report stated that less than half of men living with HIV are receiving treatment, compared with 60 percent of women. The report also found that men are more likely to start treatment for HIV late and to interrupt the regimen prematurely.
“There is a blind spot for men”, Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, stated, “Men are not using services to prevent HIV, or to test for HIV, and are not accessing treatment on the scale that women are.”
The report said that men are also less likely to be tested for HIV. In general, men visit health-care facilities less frequently, thus have fewer health checks. This leads to late diagnostics when it comes to being life-threatening illnesses.
“When men access HIV prevention and treatment services, there is a triple dividend”, Sidibé affirmed, “They protect themselves, they protect their sexual partners, and they protect their families.”
However, advertising for HIV testing has been less effective at reaching men than women. Sidibé blames masculinity stereotypes that are prevalent across many societies and cultures. “The concept of harmful masculinity and male stereotypes create conditions that make having safer sex, taking an HIV test, accessing and adhering to treatment—or even having conversations about sexuality—a challenge for men, but men need to take responsibility. This bravado is costing lives”.
In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV-positive men and boys are 20 percent less likely to know whether or not they have the virus and are 27 percent less likely to receive treatment.
The report found that older men in sub-Saharan Africa use condoms less frequently during sex with non-regular partners. According to the data, this particular demographic group is more likely to acquire HIV than their younger counterparts. The investigation also found a cycle of HIV transmission from older men to younger women and from adult women to men of a similar age.
Some men in Uganda, who were interviewed for the study, said that they would rather not know their HIV status citing the emasculating stigma associated with being HIV-positive.
Worldwide, men face numerous disincentives to receiving treatment for the virus including discrimination, harassment and refusal of health services.
Outside of Africa, three of every five new HIV infections are among men
Homosexual men are 24 times more likely to acquire HIV than those who are heterosexual. In more than 20 countries, HIV prevalence among homosexual men is 15 percent or higher.
The data also suggests that condom usage among homosexual men is dropping in countries like Australia, Europe, and the United States. In the US, condom usage among homosexual men decreased from 65 to 59 percent in less than half of a decade.
“We cannot let complacency set in”, Sidibé said. “If complacency sets in, HIV will take hold and our hopes of ending AIDS by 2030 will be shattered”.
Intravenous drug users are another demographic of the population at increased risk of contracting HIV
An estimated 9.44 million men inject drugs. According to the report, HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs exceeds 25 percent in some countries and condom usage is also low within this demographic.
Additionally, the percentage of men who inject with sterile equipment varies from country to country. In the US, only 35 percent of men surveyed used a sterile needle during their last injection. Sharing needles is one of the most effective ways of transmitting HIV.
The report concluded that HIV services specifically tailored to men must be made more available. Sidibé stated that technology could play a big part in this. Said expert believes the future of HIV messaging is through mobile phones with a focus on apps used more frequently by men than women.
Latin American Post | Daniel Dawson
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto